Unity key to student success at university



It is with heartfelt pleasure that I welcome all the new and continuing students for this Advent Semester at Uganda Christian University (UCU).

As a man who has been here for the last one year, I can say with certainty that you made the perfect choice to be part of the intellectually enriching academic quest for knowledge and wisdom.

Usually, when one joins university, there is so much enthusiasm as one explores the new opportunities and prospects that campus has to offer.

However, caution ought to be applied when adjusting to the new environment lest you will not end up with broken expectations.

In every social setting, harmonious co-existence is vital so as to foster peace, security and co-operation.

This is what is exactly recommended for new students to ensure that they enjoy a comfortable stay at UCU.

In return, the staff is expected to treat new students to a warm reception in their various courses of study.

We owe it to each other to act with brotherly love, care and kindness rather than with acts of hooliganism, rudeness and bullying. 

Convenience brings about serenity, which translates into productive and efficient academic excellence amongst the students.

Hence, harmonisation accords students a springboard to exploit their full potential.

UCU, with a history of cultural diversity, needs unity and social integration if freshers are to benefit from vitality and diversity to our heritage.

As much as most of us desire peace, some criminal elements are lurking in the shadows ready to lure unsuspecting new students. You have got to be extremely vigilant about the new friends you make.

The most common of them all are the fraudulent conmen who come with get- rich- quick schemes targeting your tuition fees and pocket money. Do not be tempted to join as that is a shortcut to not graduating.

Unity starts from a personal initiative. It is a virtue that starts within us. In his address to the Indian people on January 27, 2015, US president Barack Obama stated that, “the peace we seek in the world begins in our human hearts and it finds its glorious expression when we look beyond our differences and rejoice in the beauty of every soul.”

UCU offers the spiritual, cultural, academic and natural environment to find the good in one another. Enjoy your stay.


How not to graduate Part 1

AwanyJoining university can be an exciting time. It is often accompanied by many lifestyle changes such as new routines, meeting new people, making new friends, and generally adjusting to campus life.

Amidst all this, students are expected to develop effective study skills in an environment different from the ones they were accustomed to. At the end of three or four years, depending on your course designation, graduation is the next and last thing on queue and obviously, not everyone will graduate. RONALD AWANY has tips for those with no intentions of graduating.

Serious students like to draw a plan. They schedule fixed commitments such as lectures, tutorials, sports training, among others. They also allocate time for recreation, socialising, family, and to themselves. But of course for you who doesn’t care about graduation, you don’t need all that.

Just go to bed and wake up without a plan, and no priorities and then you will be one of the most successful failures of all time.

By now you must have known or read, or heard, if you don’t already know, soon you will, that in UCU, only those who attend at least 75 per cent of lectures are eligible to sit for the end of semester exams and of course you must have also heard that you will need at least 17.5 percent of mid-term assessment marks to qualify for the same exams.

Well, again, that is only for those who want to graduate. For those who do not want, all you need to do is go to bed ‘high’ every day. It doesn’t matter if it is alcohol or some banned substance: wake up whenever you want to, sit on the veranda (if any) or balcony depending on where you stay and sun bathe.

Many students report to university only to walk away at the end without graduating (File photo)

When your classmates return to hostel, ask them if they had a test. If the answer is yes, go back to bed and wait to watch them on the red carpet.

The moment you stepped into UCU, you must have noticed one of the tallest buildings next to the Guild offices. It is called the Ham Mukasa Library. Its sitting capacity is over 3,000 with thousands of books and online content.

The catch is only those who want to graduate visit that place often, the ones who think they ‘know it all’. You don’t have to go there at all but this is the part that you will like though, there is unlimited wireless internet. Grab your laptop, get connected and spend the whole day downloading the latest music and movies.

Ensuring that your study area is a pleasant environment is still for only those who want to walk on the red carpet. You don’t have to organise your books, notes or papers so that they are easily accessed. You also don’t need to take or photocopy notes at all, and you don’t need to care about your grades. None of that is necessary if you actually don’t want to graduate.

Soon you will find out that course work can be stressing. Imagine 20 pages of research work with references and citations, too much work! Isn’t campus supposed to be stress free?

Well, there is a brother called Google. He knows almost everything. Simply type anything you want then copy and paste, and then submit, it is the most stress-free way to do things especially when you claim it’s your original work. They call it plagiarism and trust me; it can get you successfully sent away from the university.

Discussion groups can also be very stressful. Imagine you have to attend class, then again go for discussions yet you have google. You don’t need those discussion groups because they only help those who want to graduate. Simple, just keep procrastinating and read when exams come, you will achieve the inevitable, fail to graduate!

Over the years, many have joined the university and achieved this ‘fete’ and lived the dream, they have followed each of the steps above, partied more and studied less, one thing is for sure, they have successfully failed to graduate along with their friends who refuse to take this advice. Enjoy your time in UCU!

The writer is a staff writer and sports editor at The Standard

The downside of character assassination


Character assassination has been a phenomenal vice since time immemorial. Often, tabloids are swept awash with societal scandals that sarcastically seem to be public fodder for amusement.

Basically, character assassination is the slandering of a person usually with the intention of destroying public confidence in them.

J.B. Sheridan’s “School Of Scandal” illustrates how defamation consumed seventeenth century England. The streets were widespread with rumour about petty issues.

What prompts my concern is how gruesome character assassination is executed. Many people can get hurt through the mistaken belief that they’re morally stained in the eyes of these societal stereotypes.

Character assassination can manifest in many forms. It can involve dishonest criticism, spreading of rumours, and manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person, deliberate misinformation on topics relating to the subject’s morals, integrity and reputation. Consequently this permanently stains a person’s character.

In most scenarios, the damage is irreparable to the aftertaste of the rumour mill. In grave instances, victims can go as far as committing or contemplating suicide because they can’t stomach the ridicule and condemnation.

Today, many people indulge in this evil for reasons known to only themselves. It could be a jilted lover or a narcissist trying to make a victim’s life hard. Sadly, the resurgence of social media has catapulted the transmission of these negative messages.

It’s a social injustice to condemn a person without according them a fair hearing. Anybody accused of a crime deserves a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

Recently, one of my lecturers reiterated the aspect of fairness. He mentioned a scenario where he was on a law entry interview panel. One of the interviewees, a girl had walked in with piercings on her body. To make it worse, she had tattoos on her body.

Without a word said, she had already been condemned by the other panelists for being grossly immoral. To her aid, he applied a holistic approach and instead commended her intellectual virtue.

She graduated with good grades and moral uprightness as well. Had she been turned away, only God knows what would have become of her?

We should love others unconditionally and not see them as mere adversaries to be fought as a means to an end. Putting out another person’s candle doesn’t make yours any brighter.

The writer is first year law student.

Learning from our misdoings (part one)


(LLB 4) 

Well, at least we had very many holidays this semester, the longest being political. One more hurdle jumped, it seems, for His Excellency Yoweri Museveni after his victory.

Anyway, sometimes I wonder how anyone can have enough energy left after such a dreadful marathon to even think of running a country as its president.

Like many people, I guess, I wonder why Ugandans do it this way. It has nothing to do with the policies of the candidates, more with finding out what sort of person each one is.

But then they seem to want their chosen candidates to have lived a life without blemish. No peccadillos, no adolescent experiments, no switches of policy, no bad marriages, no scandals, and of course, no traces of any illness.

Yes, we both know that most of the greatest Ugandan presidents were either former rebels, naughty, or both, but they still want a candidate without a blemish from birth.

And yet I know, and they must know, that a man without blemish is not only likely to be a great bore but also someone who can have learnt little along the way. For it’s by suffering that we grow and by mistakes that we learn.

The other day I was asked to take part in a radio series. The idea was to ask a selection of people, one a week, to be interviewed about what they had learnt in life and how and when they learnt it. Flattered as ever by the attention of the media, I agreed to be one of those interviewed.

It was only after I had hanged up that I realized I wouldn’t be talking about high school, law and inspiration, that if I was going to do it honestly I would have to reveal my all, all the big mistakes, failures, the times I let people down or, God help me, deceived them and was found out, and sometimes not.

Will I, because it has not happened yet, dare be that honest? But if I don’t, I will have cheated again because that is how I really learnt, how we all learn, from our misdoing, even more than from our doings.

I already know that it is going to be a very good thing for me to do. Suddenly, too, I am beginning to understand what St. Paul meant when he said that it was in his weakness that he found his strength because then, as he put it, the power of Christ could find its way in.

He (St. Paul) was writing to the naughty and arrogant Corinthians, the yuppies of yesteryears, but the message is still true today. If you cannot own up to your failings, you won’t discover your strengths.

Why don’t our leaders do the same, be they in politics, public service, student leaders, or, dare I say it, the Church? It might actually be a good way of celebrating this Lenten season as a gift to those millions of learners who are not in school any more and who need to urgently discover their strength through their failings.

A close encounter with death

Sarah Lagot Odwong mugshotThe not-so-secret love-hate relationship that I have with boda-boda folks can make for a very good telenovela.

Unsurprisingly, my dislike for boda-boda riders has only intensified following an incident recently.

A few days ago, I was swamped with work, trying to beat deadlines and so I stayed really late at the office. Time check: 9:00 p.m.

I packed up my laptop in my gray weather-beaten backpack and walked out of Nyonyi Gardens where I work, which was now steeped in a deathly silence. A few cars drove by the Kololo Airstrip stretch and my only means to Nakawa at the time would be by, you guessed it, boda-boda.

Since my regular boda-boda man was home already, I was left with no option but to trudge down the road towards Shoprite Lugogo. A few cars sped by as I walked on the uneven pavement.

My eyes were firmly fixed on the winding road and bogged down by the weight of the laptop in the rucksack on my back and a handbag firmly clasped in my right hand, I possibly looked like a pitiful hunchback making her way through the dark Kololo streets.

“Hoot hoot,” I turned my gaze to the road at the sound piercing through the silent night. A boda-boda had finally shown up.

“Nyabo , where are you going?” a boda-boda rider clad in a thick green leather jacket and a cracked helmet atop his head asked. The front lights of his bike blazed fiercely through the thick cloud of darkness, casting a yellow hue over the street.

“I am going to Kireka,” I replied.

A tough bargaining session over the fare then followed. He wanted Shs6,000; I wouldn’t budge. That amount was too much. I told him I would walk the rest of the journey to Shoprite. Defeated, he rode off in the opposite direction as I continued my laboured walk towards Nakawa.

I cannot tell for certain what happened next but in a split second a huge force was pushing against me from behind, threatening to overpower me and throw me off balance.

His engine roared as he tried to pull away my bag. He exerted so much energy pulling the bag that he dragged me into the road. I fell face forward onto the rough, unwelcoming tarmac.

The rough stones scraped against my face. A car that was driving in my direction screeched to a halt about two metres from my bruised body.

The driver had obviously noticed the chaos from afar. He switched off his engine and came out. The boda-boda rider, caught in the car headlights, rode off; afraid of getting caught, and in the process he thankfully dropped my bag on the tarmac.

“Are you okay? Are you okay? Madam, are you okay?” the driver of the parked car asked as he patted my forehead. Other cars had proceeded to park behind his; and a crowd of worried passersby was milling around me.

The adrenaline and nauseating fear must have made me pass out. The driver, very worried now, scooped me in his arms and placed me with my belongings in the passenger seat of his car and drove to Engen Petrol station.

That is when I came to. My heart started to race again as I realized I was locked up in an unfamiliar car. I looked around to see if I could raise an alarm. The pump attendants at the petrol station were engaged in light-hearted banter.

Their laughter rose through the air as they clapped their hands with glee. Then a middle aged man in a pin-striped suit walked back to the car and opened it. He climbed in and started the engine.

He passed me a bottle of cold Blue-Wave mineral water.

“Drink this!” he said in a fatherly tone.

“Who are you? Where are you taking me?” I asked on the verge of a panic attack.

“Calm down. My name is Benjamin. I picked you from near The Lawns. A boda-boda man was trying to rob you,” he replied.

The memory of the attack came rushing back like a gust of ice-cold wind chilling me to the marrow. I shuddered to think what would have happened if Benjamin had not come to my rescue. He could have easily run over me on the road too if he had not been sober and alert.

“Thank you Benjamin,” I muttered, very grateful to be alive.

Benjamin, whose second name I never got to know, dropped me off at Shell Nakawa. I then boarded a Namugongo-Kyaliwajjala bound taxi that dropped me right outside my mother’s house.

Like everybody else, I live with the knowledge that death will come but I never fathom how soon that will be. It seems like some far-off apparition that I occasionally glimpse at when I hear of somebody’s demise.

However, my boda-boda incident has sobered me up to the reality that I can go to meet my creator any time. I am making certain evaluations in my life, working on having a better relationship with people and my Creator, and trying to enjoy every minute of every day. Alas, last Thursday night, I could have breathed my last.

That day also promptly ended my business relationships with boda-bodas. A morbid fear of them has gripped my heart and soul. When I see a boda-boda rider my mind races back to the man in the thick green leather jacket with the cracked helmet, a sight that terrified my soul!

As I am learning to be more cautious, I am also making the deliberate decision to put my life, safety and health above all the material things I am working for. I have let my boss know that I will not be working late any more. He can always find a replacement in case I pass away. My mother however, would never recover from the grief of my demise. Like Toby Mac said: “You don’t want to gain the whole world and lose your soul.

Where are the love letters?


Not so long ago, in a land of a thousand dreams, probably the 1950s, somewhere in an old bungalow lived a sweet youthful woman that I now call grandmother (Clementina).

All alone and in a relaxed composure, she sat and wrote love letters to her husband far away in the cold confines of Mbale Prison, working day and night as a warden. These moments of solitude evoke strong memories of the love letters I have written all in the name of cupid.

As if to ascertain that she was alone, she would hide her palms beneath the sheets of paper just to exaggerate that the letters were only for her eyes. People write letters so as to feel good about those moments they had or never had. Others would go as far as to spray cologne so as to add that aromatic aura synonymous with romanticism.

Sadly, letter writing seems to fade fast as the time that swishes by the day. It’s much harder to believe this tragic death as an utmost evolution of survival.

Yes, email is a wonderful invention. It links people across the world, destroying in an instant hurdle of geography that confronts snail mail. Yet it’s by nature ephemeral and lacks the spark of character that only handwriting can provide. When you get an email, you can never be sure that you are the only recipient or even that it’s original”.

In a world run by these machines we call technology, deep inside, slowly, dies the art of letter writing in place of buzzing social media. When the aspect of social media comes into play, the first thing that comes to mind is the instant messaging that seems to take the bragging rights.

The anticipation never dies in the letters. With all the hushy and pushy feeling of email, it never gets better with the impatience that seems to breed so fast in our dotcom era.

Sometimes people go as far as breaking cups because a reply hasn’t yet arrived, say on their Whatsapp platform.

Let’s re-ignite this form of expression. There’s so much more to tell in a love letter than meets eye.

The ‘they’ syndrome


“They really ought to do something about it”, said one student before our elections, pointing at the cracks in the library. Who “they” were or what “they” should do was, naturally, not specified.

It was just another example of what I have come to call the “they” syndrome after one student told me last time that she hates my articles in The Standard .

“What will you read then?” I asked. “They haven’t told me,” she said. “Who are they?” I asked curiously (I mean I haven’t written for a while since I was in a self-imposed exile).

She looked at me as if I said something peculiarly stupid. “They haven’t told me who they are, have they?” she said witheringly. I shouldn’t be so scathing. I spent 12 years in school and three more at UCU (so far) waiting patiently for them to shape my life while they deplored my lack of gumption in taking no initiatives.

When the doctor at Alan Galpin told me that they knew nothing about my fever and could not cure it (and told me to rest instead), I murmured “thank you”, hugged my pain to myself, and went away strangely assured that “they” were no wiser than me.

Any institution will have its “theys” who, everyone hopes, are taking care of the future, although, when pressed, no one is quite sure who “they” are.

“Almighty God”, we pray, and almighty He is, but that doesn’t mean He is our jack of all trades sorting out everything for us.

No, the excitement of Christianity for us is its insistence that God became man, that God works through us, that God can’t let me leave it to Him, because He is in me.

Frightening, when you think about it, but, actually, it’s what gives life its meaning and purpose. I would never want to think myself as a pre-determined doll, going through the motions in the hope of Nirvana at the end. I must be able to influence my will and ending, just as the Bible says I can. I suppose I take what’s called a high view of humankind in UCU, that is.

I go along with Dr. Ssenyonyi who said that divine seed dwells in us, and also with Athanasius (of the creed), who said, “He was humanized that we may be deified”. I refuse to be what many like doing here. If you have an issue, don’t claim “they”.

Take the high view and you give power to yourself, more things become possible. You respect the guild and senate leadership, and you read my articles.

I find, problems turn out to conceal opportunities, blocks turn into stepping stones, well, most of the time. You realize who you are and what matters.

Congratulations to all victors of the election. I’m watching you. For those that never made it, you will be fine.

Oh they told me Pius won the guild presidential race (did I use “they”?).